Octagenarian Artist Bequeaths Plans for 'City of Tomorrow'

Futurist Orville Simpson envisioned a hyper-efficient city housed in a single, interconnected mega-complex. Lauren Boettcher explores plans by the University of Cincinnati to take on Simpson's legacy.
June 27, 2012, 10am PDT | Ryan Lue
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Much in the tradition of Le Corbusier and Paolo Soleri, Orville Simpson is a bold thinker with grand ideas for the utopian cities of the future. But at the ripe age of 89, confronted with the likelihood that he may not live to see his grand ideas take shape, Simpson has elected to entrust his legacy to the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, where students will use his ideas as a basis for their exploration of the future of urban design.

Without any formal artistic training, or even a high school diploma, Simpson produced elaborate plans for a forward-thinking, resource-efficient, socially connected futurist colony called Victory City. Starting in his early twenties, Simpson built continuously on this vision throughout his life, which he was able to do thanks to "his frugal lifestyle paired with a few savvy investments," Boettcher explains.

"Each time I added a new layer to Victory City, another challenge would present itself," Simpson recalls. "I constantly assessed the relationships between each of the city's components. How would the agricultural farms transport food most efficiently to the cafeterias? How would residents visit their families in other cities? These are the questions I challenged myself to answer with every new sketch."

Urban design professor Udo Greinacher expressed his excitement for Simpson's contribution and the standard his work sets for students and faculty alike. "My diverse groups of students bring a variety ideas and experiences to the table, but Simpson's forward thinking has truly challenged them to step outside their own comfort zones. If I can encourage my students to be more like Simpson, I will have accomplished something great as a professor."

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Published on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 in Enhanced Online News
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